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mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Aug 31, 2016
Frostbite Falls, MN

As the worms turn (in my composting bin)

by Jessica Stolzberg | New York Times | 17 April 2020

My relationship with trash changed for the better from the first banana peel I kept out of it.

No one told me there would be worms. But I didn’t give in to squeamishness. Nor lack of confidence. The dirt-filled secret turned out to be that I can compost, and the results, requiring neither rigor nor aptitude, are stunning.

I also didn’t know composting would be so soothing during a pandemic.

In these mounting weeks of self-isolating, many of us are seeking and finding solace in the natural world. For me, this comfort extends to my backyard composting, which thrives as my family eats and snacks through each day at home, now and into a near future that unfurls with uncertainty.

I’ve never considered our food supply chain so intensely: where our sustenance comes from, whether there will be enough through this crisis, who touches it before it gets to us (and if our heroic grocers are being properly compensated), and how we should handle it once it’s home. We now wash our fruits and vegetables with soap and warm water.

I take this one more step, beyond our nourishment, and deliver what we don’t consume back to the earth.

I’ve been composting imperfectly but effectively for six years, and I do it with a basic composting bin out my back door. I altered my relationship with trash from the first banana peel I kept out of it.

Consider the common salad: one bounty is headed to the table, the other — a colorful mass of peels, cores, rinds and stems — goes into a countertop container. Ready to rot, it’s a visual reminder of the sheer volume of what will never be closed inside a plastic bag and burned in an incinerator or dropped onto a landfill.

In the last month, the planet as we know it has shifted under our feet and will probably shift again. The coronavirus is showing us what global fragility looks like, though the planet’s health has been struggling for some time as it continues to warm from the burning of fossil fuels. Environmental regulations are being rolled back. Recycling programs are faltering, and it’s unclear how we’ll manage our excessive quantities of plastics. The outlook can feel bleak.

We need to reduce our output of waste. Composting is a simple and fruitful method of doing that. It’s also an antidote to eco-despair and its sibling, eco-paralysis, which often take the form of a question: “What can I alone do?” or “How do I begin?”

Someone told me recently she was daunted by the process of composting, to which I replied, “What process?”

I keep a lidded stainless steel vessel (previously an ice bucket) on the counter that fills up within a day or two, depending on what’s for dinner and how much fruit my kids have polished off. (I trained my family fairly easily with a sign on the kitchen trash can and a few days of redirected apple cores.) I follow a basic home composting rule: If it comes from the earth, yes. If it walks or swims the earth, no.

When it fills, I take my countertop loot outside to the compost bin, nestled next to a tree at the back of our quarter-acre. I twist off the bin’s top (my simple unit reminds me of a supersize Darth Vader helmet) and, with a level of satisfaction I don’t always achieve in the other corners of my day, toss in my scraps. I throw on some dry leaves I’ve corralled since fall (a perk — we have far less to bag). Next time I’m there, I give the compost a couple of pokes and a swirl with the turning tool and admire all the worms that have arrived to feast and do their fine work. They seem so happy inside, devouring our leftovers, and it makes me happy to see them.

If the compost seems gooey, I add extra leaves; if it seems dry, I don’t. The contents break down quickly in summer, which makes space to fill the bin back up in winter. Once a year, out the bottom hatch comes homemade fertilizer, dark and crumbly and unscented, flecked with an occasional produce sticker. I gleefully deposit it around the plantings in my yard, or perhaps into a freshly dug hole for a new shrub or tree.

In doing just this little with so much, our curbside trash has been cut in half and is remarkably light. We don’t need the second day of trash pickup our town provides, which means a truck that idles less.

I recently weighed the citrus rinds, cucumber peels, coffee grounds and other kitchen detritus collected in two days by my family of four and it came to 4.3 pounds. I did the math for a week, then a year, then six, and felt something that could only have been eco-joy.

This is at my fingertips, or just beyond the blade of my paring knife, every single day.

Right now, as we continue to heed the call to stay home, the planet is displaying signs of renewed health. Satellite views reveal an atmosphere convalescing in reduced emissions from cars on land and planes across the sky, startling proof of what’s possible when we humans ease up. We are acquiring less, walking more and delighting in spring blooms and bright stars — small, essential gifts.

Earth Day this year will be without gatherings. To celebrate at home, consider keeping your first banana peel out of the garbage. I promise it will feel good and meaningful, both in the here and now and well beyond. Composting allows for a connection to food, to waste, to nature breaking things down just as intended, and to the revelry that comes with allowing it to happen.

When we emerge from the turmoil of this pandemic, perhaps scathed but no less able, may we maintain our enhanced connection, and take seriously our responsibility to this planet and its soil.

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mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Aug 31, 2016
Frostbite Falls, MN

Planting 1 trillion more trees would save the planet

by Ashley Taylor | The Scientist | Jul 5 2019

A new report by the Panel on Climate Change says that curbing global warming would require planting one billion hectares of additional forest - a forest about the size of the U.S. According to a study published today in Science, the planet has room for the new trees.

The globe could accommodate the additional 0.9 billion hectares of forest, the study found. That much forest area, if allowed to mature, could result in the storage of an estimated 205 gigatons of carbon, or about two-thirds of the carbon that humans have added to the atmosphere since the 1800s.

“This is by far—by thousands of times—the cheapest climate change solution,” Thomas Crowther, who led the study, tells the Associated Press, adding that "it’s also the most effective solution available."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report suggested that planting 1 billion hectares of trees would be necessary to prevent global temperatures from increasing by 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, so Crowther and Jean-Francois Bastin, ecologists at Switzerland’s ETH-Zurich, and colleagues decided to explore whether that was theoretically possible. They analyzed about 80,000 satellite photos to identify areas that could support different types of forests. They then subtracted existing forests, agricultural areas, and urban areas to determine how much land remained for forestation.

The 0.9 billion hectares of additional forest would translate to 1–1.5 trillion trees, adding to the 3 trillion trees on Earth already, the AP reports. More than half the restoration potential lies in six countries alone: Russia, the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and China.

The results indicate that the IPCC target for forest restoration is “undoubtedly achievable under the current climate,” the authors write in their paper.

But the current climate is changing, so humans will have to act fast to take advantage of this potential solution. If the globe stays on its current warming trajectory, the study authors note, the area available for new forests will shrink by 223 million hectares, or nearly a quarter, by 2050.

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mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Aug 31, 2016
Frostbite Falls, MN

Could survival bunkers become the new normal?

by Mira Ptacin | New York Times | 26 Jun 2020

When we were told to stay inside our homes, a portion of the population quietly went below ground.

The modular square fallout shelter built by Atlas Survival Shelters, based in Sulphur Springs, Texas. Atlas and other shelter companies have seen a big increase in business since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The first tenant for one of Frank Woodworth’s underground bunkers wasn’t a human, it was a seed. “A couple of hippies called me up and asked me to build them a vault for their heirloom seeds,” he said.

A reserved man with Downeast stoicism, Mr. Woodworth is the owner of Northeast Bunkers, a company in Pittsfield, Maine, that specializes in the design and construction of underground bunkers. It was 18 years ago that Mr. Woodworth outfitted that first steel vault while working as a general contractor, and he has since changed direction, pivoting his business model to focus solely on designing, installing and updating underground shelters.

He stresses that these are not “luxury bunkers” for the top 1 percent, and only a small part of the calls are coming from Doomsday preppers or Cold War-era holdovers. Rather, about two-thirds of his business comes from consumers who pay approximately $25,000 for an underground livable dwelling. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Woodworth said he has been unable to keep up with the demand.

Buyers of these kinds of underground dwellings say that they simply want to protect their families from an increasingly turbulent world. For many, the decision to build a bunker was made before the coronavirus pandemic surfaced, but they say that they now feel prepared for the next local or global crisis.

Aaron, who spoke on the condition that his full name not be used to protect his privacy, said he bought a bunker three years ago to keep his family in the Washington D.C. area safe in a variety of situations. “If something happens, I can put the family in there, or if I’m gone, my wife can lock the family in there,” he said. “Not just the coronavirus, or civil unrest. Even in environmental things — like earthquakes and tornadoes — my family is protected.”

Aaron, who has three teenagers and is in his mid-40s, said he is currently using his 1,100-square-foot bunker as an office. “Parts of the bunker are off-limits to all my children, like any of the security rooms, the weapons room, the food and storage room, the pantry,” he said.

Other amenities include a food and storage room, as well as an aboveground “safe room” which is used “if you need to quickly get away from something immediately. Basically, a panic room.”

He bought his bunker from a company called Hardened Structures based in Virginia Beach, Va., one of the many bunker builders across the country.

Some buyers go through a bunker broker to find a shelter that fits their needs. Jonathan Rawles is the owner and manager of Survival Realty Brokerage Services, a national company based in Idaho that works with agents and brokers specializing in remote, off-grid bunker-type property.

“There is continual demand for people that are looking to find more of a sustainable future for themselves, for their families,” Mr. Rawles said. “A lot of real estate markets only focus on housing in the urban areas, suburban areas, exurbs, and there is very much a missed opportunity for people who are looking to live off-grid, wanting to live remote, or actually looking to secure a property, whether that’s a bunker or a more secure and sustainable home.”

Mr. Rawles pairs his clients with bunker-building companies in the U.S. and says his company has a wide range of clients. “This market and desire for security cuts across all levels of society — social, political, racial, religious,” he said. “People are looking for the opportunity to secure the family’s future, to have a more sustainable future, and part of that may be having a bunker.”

Mr. Woodworth at Northeast Bunkers, said that recent inquiries have come from across the United States, and worldwide. The furthest installation he’s ever done? The Caribbean. “That one went by truck then by barge then by truck.”

A schematic of the Genesis series of shelters from Hardened Structures, based in Virginia Beach, Va.

The basic model at Northeast Bunkers is a cylindrical steel vessel eight feet in diameter, in 13- or 20-foot lengths, welded from quarter-inch plate steel and equipped with an entrance hatch on top. Standard features include rust-resistant exterior paint, cedar plank flooring, zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) interior finishes, two vent ports, floor hatches for storage, and an emergency exit hatch.

Optional features include power connections (your choice of 12-volt or 120-volt), potable water system, septic system, bathroom, kitchen, bunks, and a blast door. “All depending on what you order, and all materials are made in America,” Mr. Woodworth said. “We try to get people as safe as possible within a reasonable budget.”

The company’s bunkers range from $25,000 to $35,000.

In the 1950s and 60s, the threat of nuclear war and Cold War tensions sparked demand in home fallout shelters, with endorsements from both the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, a proliferation of pamphlets (and coupons) for such structures scattered across America, as well as a vote in 1961 in Congress for $169 million with a big push to mark, locate and stock fallout shelters in existing public and private buildings.

Back then, bunkers were economical in construction and basic in design, consisting of rot-resistant plywood panels and concrete blocks, buried and backfilled with sand or gravel. Today, most shelters are fabricated from steel, like Northeast Bunkers’, or concrete, or cinder blocks. Others are made from airform — a highly engineered reusable and inflatable spray mold to be covered in concrete to create monolithic domes — or from renovated missile silos, and many are completely new high-end construction.

An illustration of a shelter installed under a house by Atlas Survival Shelters.

Today, some underground shelter companies market military-grade materials, such as Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Air Filtration Systems, gas-tight and waterproof doors, and six-point locking systems. Others offer the option of home entertainment theaters, game rooms, wine cellars, gun racks, even underground swimming pools.

Atlas Survival Shelters, a fallout shelter company based in Sulphur Springs, Texas, specializes in safe rooms and bomb shelters, and advertises one modular unit that “feels as close to home as possible.”

The modular 8-by-12-foot (not including the entry corridor) mini model costs $49,000 and includes a mud room, a decontamination room, a gas-tight marine door, an air-filtration system, a blast valve and a generator pod.

Products at Atlas start at about $400 a square foot, ranging from $9,000 for an inflatable shelter to $5 million for their “platinum series shelter.”

Ron Hubbard, president and owner of Atlas, makes, among other shelter products, monolithic domes that “meet FEMA standards for providing near-absolute protection.”

Atlas’s bunker building videos on YouTube signed up 47,000 new YouTube subscribers in April, and a video of a luxury bunker installation has gotten nearly 6 million views. Atlas has also seen a big uptick in calls and orders since the coronavirus pandemic began.

“But you do not need to go into a bunker to save yourself from the coronavirus,” Mr. Hubbard said. “No one has bought a shelter from me to hide during the pandemic, but many people have bought it because of the pandemic. They feel that this is the beginning of something a lot bigger, and they feel it in their gut.”

Another bunker owner, Roberta, who lives in New Mexico and who also asked that her full name not be used to protect her privacy, bought her off-grid bunker from Atlas Shelters four years ago. “I believe everyone deserves a better chance of survival, not just me.”

She calls her underground shelter her “woman cave,” and it’s equipped with a kitchen, entertainment center, toilet, shower, mud room and a place to sleep. Roberta, 59, married, and retired with grown children, wants to be able to provide a safe haven for her family at a moment’s notice.

She gets into her shelter by entering what looks like a rickety shed hidden in plain sight on a sandy, deserted plot of land that she owns. Inside the shed, she opens a hatch on the floor, and steps down a steep set of stairs to a steel submarine door. Inside, just past the bunker’s mud room is the living room, where a sign reads, “My husband needed more space, so I locked him outside.”

Aaron, the bunker buyer who lives in the Washington D.C. area, found Hardened Structures on Google, and said the company had a good reputation online. When the family was installing an in-ground pool, he decided to have Hardened Structures put in a bunker at the same time.

“So no one knew what we were building,” he said. “I’m not a prepper. My parents were ranchers who do old-school canning, deer hunting, that kind of thing. So I took little things from them.”

Brian Camden, principal of Hardened Structures, has been in business for 32 years. The majority of his projects are underground bunkers beneath fortified homes in locations ranging from Brooklyn to ranches out West.

The company’s underground shelters are made from cast-in-place reinforced concrete. The prices range anywhere from $600 to $3,000 per square foot. Factors affecting the cost include blast overpressure (thickness of the concrete walls and structure).

With new business booming, bunker installers are also keeping busy with their previous clients.

Recently, Mr. Woodworth, of Northeast Bunkers returned from an installation job on Chebeague Island, in Casco Bay, Maine, and said he was so busy that clients were being wait-listed. Bunker upgrades have also become much more popular among Mr. Woodworth’s clients, and people who were putting in just six months’ worth of food are now putting in two years’ worth.

“I’m just a businessman who deals with paranoid people,” he said, “and it seems like the parameters of paranoia are changing every day.”

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mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Aug 31, 2016
Frostbite Falls, MN

Crushed basalt applied to an arable field in Norfolk as part of the research program of the Leverhulme Centre for
Climate Change Mitigation

Spreading rock dust on fields could remove vast amounts of CO2 from the air

by Adam Vaughan | NewScientist | 8 Jul 2020

Spreading rock dust on cropland around the world could save around a tenth of humanity’s “carbon budget”, the amount of carbon dioxide we can afford to emit without triggering catastrophic levels of global warming.

The Earth’s three biggest CO2 emitters – China, the US and India – have the most to gain from the strategy, which is known as enhanced rock weathering (ERW). Rocks naturally absorb CO2, but ERW accelerates the process by grinding them up to increase their surface area.

David Beerling at the University of Sheffield says his modelling of ERW’s potential is the most realistic yet because it limits how much rock is available and the energy countries would be willing to use for grinding. Factoring in countries’ climate, cropland area and evolving energy systems, they found that rock dust could remove between 0.5 and 2 gigatonnes of CO2 annually by 2050. Humanity’s fossil fuel use emits around 35 gigatonnes of CO2 each year.

“If you can extract a gigatonne a year, that’s significant. Two gigatonnes is the combined CO2 emissions of aviation and shipping, and those two are going to be very difficult to decarbonise. I would say it’s got very exciting potential for transforming how we manage the agricultural landscape,” says Beerling.

China, India and the US have the most potential for removing CO2 by spreading rock dust on croplands

Maximum annual carbon removals from enhanced rock weathering, gigatonnes of CO2 :

China - 0.53
India - 0.49
US - 0.42

His team calculated that if 2 gigatonnes of CO2 were removed annually over half a century, it would save up to 12 per cent of the world’s carbon budget.

"Rock dust may hold appeal over other CO2 removal options because it doesn’t require changes to land use – such as growing energy crops for bioenergy with carbon capture and storage – and there is growing evidence that it has the side effect of boosting crop yields too," says Beerling.

“We need to clean up the climate change mess in sensible ways, over a time scale of decades to centuries,” says team member James Hansen at Columbia University in New York. “One of the ways with multiple benefits is rock dust farming. I particularly like it because it is more permanent than most CO2 draw-down schemes.”

There is still a long way to go. The amount of CO2 extracted by ERW today is effectively nothing, says Beerling. At $80 to $180 per tonne of CO2 removed, it is pricier than planting trees. Public attitudes may also need to be overcome: research published on Monday found that people in the US and the UK found it the least appealing of three ways to remove CO2.

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mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Aug 31, 2016
Frostbite Falls, MN

How psychedelics might help save the world (or at least humanity)*

by John Rhead, PhD | psychedelic.support | 22 Oct 2019

Exxaming the psychological and spiritual causes of the types of behavior that threaten our survival, it appears that the judicious use of psychedelics could mitigate such maladaptive behaviors and replace them with alternatives that are likely to be far more adaptive.

It seems clear that humanity is moving in the wrong direction, primarily through climate change, but also through increasing hatred and war, each fueled by increasing wealth disparity and dictatorial/oligarchical governments.

Countries pass laws to require their citizens to be kind to one another and to the planet. They also make treaties in an effort to promote global peace and stability. The overall success of these attempts at creating external controls over human behavior has not been very promising.

An alternative solution

Rather than trying to control the behavior of individuals and countries by imposing external structures or laws, perhaps it would be more helpful to bring about a change in consciousness (which is intrinsically internal) in as many people as possible. A change in consciousness that might be helpful would involve moving from external structures and laws to internal values as a way of influencing human behavior in such a way that it would lead to more kindness in general—toward other humans and all life on the planet. This has been suggested by many respected thinkers, such as the Dali Lama, Thomas Merton, and Paramahansa Yogananda.

Psychedelics’ role

There are two ways that psychedelics might contribute to a positive change in consciousness.

First, when used skillfully they can lead to mystical experiences in which the boundaries of the individual ego dissolve and one knows that they are intimately connected through love to everything and everyone else on the planet. After having had such an experience most people find that it is much more difficult do things that are harmful to anything or anyone. This is one of the more generic outcomes of mental health research on psychedelics that shows they may be very therapeutic in treating depression, anxiety, addictions, and a variety of other mental health conditions.

Psychedelics’ second contribution to a fomenting positive change in consciousness has to do with acquiring helpful information about how best to save the planet. When the mind is open to connections with all other life forms, this may be useful to the person having the psychedelic experience, not unlike the way that a shaman’s journey can lead to being helped, guided, and informed by shamanic allies outside of physical reality. For many centuries shamans in the Amazon have used a variety of techniques to access such connections, with the use of ayahuasca and other plant-based psychedelics being one of them.

Where to start

As noted above, psychedelics have a long history of helping humans, especially those working as shamans, to make positive and helpful connections with all life forms. Positive connections can also be facilitated between humans (MDMA seems especially powerful in this domain). It therefore seems logical to start with ways of expanding consciousness in as many people as possible who are interested in doing so, whether through the use of psychedelics or through non-drug techniques such as Holotropic Breathwork and a variety of ancient spiritual practices. Experiencing such expanded states of consciousness together, might be particularly helpful for groups with a particular need for positive and helpful connections.

Perhaps if those who create laws were exposed to more information about the possible benefits to humanity of psychedelics and enriched states of wellbeing, they would be inclined to repeal laws that hinder research and develop new ways for communities to safely access psychedelics.


Humanity and this planet face a very real crisis. If more people could have access to ways to expand consciousness, such as the careful use of psychedelics substances, there is a chance that enough wisdom could be acquired by enough people to avert disaster.

*From the article here :
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mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Aug 31, 2016
Frostbite Falls, MN

Fabien Cousteau's PROTEUS™

Designs for underwater 'space station' and habitat unveiled

by Jacqui Palumbo | CNN | 22 Jul 2020

Sixty feet beneath the surface of the Caribbean Sea, aquanaut Fabien Cousteau and industrial designer Yves Béhar are envisioning the world's largest underwater research station and habitat.

The pair have unveiled Fabien Cousteau's Proteus, a 4,000-square-foot modular lab that will sit under the water off the coast of Curaçao, providing a home to scientists and researchers from across the world studying the ocean -- from the effects of climate change and new marine life to medicinal breakthroughs.

Designed as a two-story circular structure grounded to the ocean floor on stilts, Proteus' protruding pods contain laboratories, personal quarters, medical bays and a moon pool where divers can access the ocean floor. Powered by wind and solar energy, and ocean thermal energy conversion, the structure will also feature the first underwater greenhouse for growing food, as well as a video production facility.

The Proteus is intended to be the underwater version of the International Space Station (ISS), where government agencies, scientists, and the private sector can collaborate in the spirit of collective knowledge, irrespective of borders.

"Ocean exploration is 1,000 times more important than space exploration for -- selfishly -- our survival, for our trajectory into the future," Cousteau said over a video call, with Béhar. "It's our life support system. It is the very reason why we exist in the first place."

The newly unveiled design is the latest step for this ambitious project. According to Cousteau, it will take three years until Proteus is installed, though the coronavirus pandemic has already delayed the project.

Yves Behar (left) and Fabien Cousteau (right) are leading the Proteus project.

Left undiscovered

Though oceans cover 71 percent of the world's surface, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that humans have only explored about 5 percent and mapped less than 20 percent of the world's seas.

Space exploration receives more attention and funding than its aquatic counterpart, which Cousteau hopes to remedy with Proteus -- and eventually a worldwide network of underwater research habitats. Facilities stationed in different oceans could warn of tsunamis and hurricanes, Cousteau said. They could also pioneer ambitious new research into sustainability, energy and robotics.

Europe's first underwater restaurant to open in Norway

Underwater habitats allow scientists to perform continuous night and day diving without requiring hours of decompression between dives. Like astronauts in space, they can stay underwater for days or weeks at a time.

Currently, the only underwater habitat that exists is the 400-square-foot Aquarius, in the Florida Keys, which Costeau stayed in with a team of aquanauts for 31 days in 2014. Designed in 1986 and originally owned by the NOAA, in 2013 Florida International University saved Aquarius from being abandoned after the NOAA lost government funding.

The Aquarius underwater research habitat in the Atlantic Ocean.

Family tradition

Cousteau comes from a family of famous oceanographic explorers. He's the son of filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau and grandson of Aqua-Lung co-creator Jacques-Yves Cousteau. The project is a joint effort between the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center (FCOLC) and Béhar's design firm Fuseproject, as well as their partners, which include Northeastern University, Rutgers University and the Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity Foundation.

Despite his emphasis on ocean research, Cousteau said he's "a big proponent of space exploration," noting they are similar in nature. Both types of missions require humans to be in isolation in extreme, untenable conditions. Because of that, Béhar's design, which can house up to 12 people, focuses on wellness as well as scientific and technological capabilities, including recreation areas and windows designed to let in as much light as possible.

"We've worked recently on a lot of small living environments. We've worked on robotic furniture for tiny apartments," Béhar said about Fuseproject. "So I think we had a good sense of how to design for comfort in constrained environments. That said, the underwater environment is completely different."

"We wanted it to be new and different and inspiring and futuristic,"
he continued. "So (we looked) at everything from science fiction to modular housing to Japanese pod (hotels)." The design is also meant to echo ocean life, with its structure inspired by the shape of coral polyps.

Béhar and his team also studied the underwater research habitats that have come before Proteus, including the Aquarius. All other forerunners were temporary structures built for single missions, like NASA's experimental SEALAB I, II, and III from the 1960s.

"Those habitats were purpose built, they were small and they had great limitations," Cousteau said. "So we're building off of...(a) foundation by all those amazing pioneers that came before us."

Diving ahead

While the project has some backing from the private sector, it is currently seeking further funding. Beyond backers, the station's wet and dry labs can be leased to government agencies, corporations and academic institutions.

Part of the plan is to offer regular visibility about what is happening on Proteus, including live streams and VR/AR content. In this way Cousteau hopes to engage a wider audience.

"Imagine if you found something amazing -- whether it be microcosmic like a pharmaceutical, or macrocosmic like the next greatest animal -- if you could show it to classrooms and universities," he said.

"Our mission is to be able to translate complex science into something that the average person not only maybe will understand, but fall in love with."

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mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Aug 31, 2016
Frostbite Falls, MN

The people rejecting mainstream living

by Douglas Whitbread | Bylines Times | 31 Jul 2020

It’s a few weeks into lockdown. Over a patchy Skype call, I watch as Matthew Watkinson trudges up the slopes of his off-the-grid property in Pembrokeshire, West Wales.

On most days, the windswept hillside above Newport Beach feels wild and rugged – a sea of green hues punctuated by craggy ridges. At this time, while city dwellers remain cooped up in cul-de-sacs and apartment blocks, it appears like a Celtic Shangri-La.

“We didn’t really trust the rest of the world to look after us properly,” Matthew says about why he and his family left their suburban home in Essex for Pembrokeshire. “We weren’t really predicting a viral pandemic like this, but we were concerned.”

The 2008 financial crisis was a wake-up call. He and his wife were worried about species decline and climate change. But they felt further unease as the global economy faltered.

“I’m not really a prepping, conspiracy theorist type person, but mainstream science was telling us there’s a big problem environmentally,” he says. “It just struck me that I didn’t want to be that reliant on all these massive corporations when there’s a different way.”

Today, his mostly timber home – built from a recycled horse lorry – a camper van and two flat bed trailers, blend into the landscape. But, amid the fern and gorse, the family of four have enough resources to satisfy their basic requirements.

Solar panels, a wind turbine, firewood and a biogas digestor provide their energy. A spring supplies them with fresh water, and honey and egg sales generate income. Within a few years, the land should also provide most of their food.

“I don’t think we could have done a better job of making sure the family was in the best position for something like this,” Matthew says, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and looming UK recession, likely to be the worst for 300 years.

“We don’t have a mortgage, we don’t have utility bills, so we’re not worrying about electricity or water or losing our house through repossession or anything like that. We’re not totally separate from society… but we’re more insulated than most.”

The Green Deal

While this might seem like an exercise in individualism, Matthew’s living situation in fact stems from a radical Welsh planning policy, which set a new precedent for rural existence.

His property is a One Planet Development (OPD), a subsistence-based smallholding built in open countryside. In total, there are 42 dotted throughout Wales. But this planning status comes with conditions.

A household’s ecological footprint must be a fraction of what most produce. Its occupants must also meet 65% of their minimum needs after five years – taking account of food, water, energy and waste. Additionally, their premises must be carbon neutral and allow for an on-site business.

“If people were going to have access to purchase land at agricultural prices in the countryside, they had to give back big time in terms of their stewardship functions of that land,” says Dr Jane Davidson, the ex-Welsh Minister responsible for the policy.

OPDs sprang from ‘One Wales: One Planet’, a sustainable development scheme launched in 2009. This tied factors such as national prosperity and public health to citizens living within their ‘environmental limits’ and later inspired Wales’ landmark Well-Being of Future Generations Act.

“For me, this was about a different form of governance,” Jane explains. “Environmentalism, viewed by traditional economists, is seen as preventive and stopping actions. I don’t see this at all in that way. For me, it’s about… changing to new actions.”

This nature-led approach sits at odds with Boris Johnson’s ‘Build Back Greener‘ policy to boost economic growth after the pandemic. Groups such as Greenpeace and the National Trust say that the Prime Minister’s proposal for re-launching the economy in this way is ineffective and poses risks to wildlife habitats. Action group Plan B has gone a step further, taking legal action against the recovery measures, which they say will contribute to a “climate breakdown.”

But, by allowing people to live on agricultural land, covering three-quarters of Wales, the OPD concept wasn’t without controversy.

“It flew in the face of conventional planning wisdom – ever since the Second World War and the attempt to preserve greenbelt around cities,” says David Thorpe, a writer and journalist.

His book, One Planet Life, argues that mass job creation, food security and the replenishment of soils would result from “recolonising the countryside” with labour-intensive OPD farms. But he also suggests small settlements, and even cities, could adopt their principles.

“There’s two different kinds of community,” he says. “One is a cluster of houses, where they’re all still responsible for their own management plan and they live fairly separate lives… another, where it’s a genuine village, where a lot of the services are combined.”

A new way of living

Tucked away amid Pembrokeshire’s Preseli Hills, Lammas ecovillage shows how this could work in practice.

The community formed in 2009, obtaining permission to do so under a council-led initiative.

“In a sense, we were a continuation of the low-impact development movement that has been evolving in this country for decades and decades,” says Tao Wimbush, a founder of the village. “But we were pioneers in that… instead of acting outside the planning system, we were attempting to create a niche and operate within it.”

Back then, he believed self-sustaining communities were essential for the future of human existence. Today, he sees this as beyond doubt.

“On one level, it’s just a kind of game – patience and waiting,” Tao says. “The current social, political status quo has to transform. And it can either choose to embrace that transformation or it will be forced upon it. Why? Because the ecology will require it.”

Lammas began as a collaborative enterprise, whereby stakeholders made joint decisions about community needs. Over the years, this system evolved. Today, families tend plots for their own requirements.

Like on most OPDs, Tao cultivates indigenous crops that flourish without the need for fertilisers. Proponents say that this model, known as permaculture farming, yields up to five times the produce of industrial practices, while increasing biodiversity. But volatile weather remains a challenge.

“It’s a constant dance,” Tao says about working in this way. “Last year we had ‘the beast from the east’, which brought in some really heavy frosts in late March, beginning of April. That had a knock-on effect right through the growing season.”

Tao doesn’t just rely on plant-based protein, however. From his window, he motions to a “wether”, a castrated male goat, in a nearby paddock. “It’s walking around at the moment,” he says, “but I’m just waiting for the right time to kill him and chop him up.”

For city-slickers, bred on a diet of cellophane-wrapped meat, this may sound alien. But Tao insists that OPD life isn’t about disavowing society altogether.

“Most of us do a bit of part-time work in the mainstream… whether it’s nursing, a bit of mechanics, a bit of planning consultancy,” he says. “We drive vehicles. We use a bit of fossil fuel. But by and large… our lifestyles are balanced, and in a way, that’s what the planning policy does.”

Veggie experts

On the border of Caerphilly and Cardiff, close to the capital’s smartest suburb, lies Dan and Sarah Moody’s OPD.

As teens, they felt inspired by John Seymour’s Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency, a bible for those wanting to live off-the-grid.

“We just used to browse it and kind of dream of maybe… having a little smallholding of five acres, and having sheep and chickens, and growing vegetables,” Sarah says.

Advocates suggest that networks of OPD farms in locations such as this could supply major hubs. But Sarah and Dan had a more practical reason for moving off-the-grid.

“We couldn’t afford to live in the house that we were in,” says Dan. “So we just moved onto the land, with like five home-educated kids, and lived in a Mongolian Yurt and a gypsy caravan and an old lorry that was set up as a living space.”

Over time, they added a barn and shipping container, along with a wooden cabin, the basis of their current home. But, in 2012, their off-the-grid dream was threatened. “The planners walked down the drive,” says Dan, the dread still lingering in his voice.

No Welsh council had accepted an OPD proposal at this point. The policy had effectively stalled, with applicants unable to prove their viability to sceptical local authorities. In 2014, after a lengthy process, the Moodys became the first to be approved.

“Once we managed to get planning permission, it seemed to just open it up for everyone else,” says Sarah. “Now, I think it’s much easier to go through the process.”

Like most of those living on OPDs, Dan and Sarah learned to optimise their land’s resources over many years, without any formal training.

“We started growing our own food, and then, the kind of realisation of how important organic and good food is, and looking after the environment, and looking after the soil, and looking after all that sort of stuff took place,” Dan says.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) there was a 147% rise in gardening and DIY activities during the start of lockdown in March. As their neighbours saw the value of growing crops, Dan and Sarah’s knowledge became indispensable.

“Now, it’s that whole thing of ‘how much do you charge for that?’” Sarah says, chuckling at the twist of fortune. “We’re experts… vegetable experts!”

We only have one planet

As more people work remotely, the idea of swapping clogged cities for palatial eco-homes may sound appealing.

Ryan Anderson (not their real name) was someone who made this trade.

“Basically, we were looking for a different way of life,” he says. “We weren’t on the housing ladder. We didn’t want to get into mortgage debt. So we were looking for gaps, possibilities.”

This began when he moved with his family to Wales in 2013 and put down roots in a community. Three years later, they found a site that fit the planning criteria. But, since moving onto the land last May to build their home, it hasn’t been easy.

“We’ve been living in sheds over winter, and it’s been freezing and quite challenging with all these big storms,” he says. “We’ve got two kids, and we really want to get in our house by next winter.”

His land will also require a lot of work to bear fruit. Unlike others living on OPDs, who are now managing a multi-layered ecosystem, Ryan and his family are just beginning this journey.

“We’ve been working the land, planting apple trees, which take a good five years to really be quite productive, so there’s a time factor,” he says.

In the eyes of those pursuing this route, however, the hardship is worth bearing. Ryan is not part of the ‘cottagecore’ trend of romanticised country living. He views this action as essential in preserving the world’s resources.

“Everybody really needs to be doing ‘one planet living’,” he says. “Because if we’re going to sustain ourselves, we’ve only got one planet. We haven’t got two.”

Yet, despite the support offered by the Welsh Government, there hasn’t been an explosion in OPD properties and the concept still fills a minor role in the country’s environmental policy agenda.

Despite this, those beating this path today believe that they are setting a precedent for the future. And, as the Coronavirus pandemic uproots economic orthodoxy, a social security net arising from nature, not capital, may be the only way forward.'

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mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Aug 31, 2016
Frostbite Falls, MN

‘If we fail to act now, the present moment may merely be a preview of what is to come.’

To rebuild our world, we must end the carbon economy

Jeffrey Sachs, Joseph Stiglitz, Mariana Mazzucato, Clair Brown, Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Robert Reich, Gabriel Zucman and others

The carbon economy amplifies racial, social and economic inequities, creating a system that is fundamentally incompatible with a stable future.

From deep-rooted racism to the Covid-19 pandemic, from extreme inequality to ecological collapse, our world is facing dire and deeply interconnected emergencies. But as much as the present moment painfully underscores the weaknesses of our economic system, it also gives us the rare opportunity to reimagine it. As we seek to rebuild our world, we can and must end the carbon economy.

Even as climate breakdown looms around the corner, the pressure to return to the old carbon-based economy is real – and all the more dangerous, given the fundamental instability of an economy rooted in injustice. Sources of large-scale human suffering, such as crop failures, water shortages, rising tides, wildfires, severe weather, forced migration and pandemics, go hand-in-hand with a warming world. For example, exposure to airborne pollution heightens the risk of complications from diseases like Covid-19, and deforestation and rising temperatures make the emergence of future infectious diseases more likely. When these consequences manifest, it is no accident that they are disproportionately felt by communities of color, low-income communities, the most vulnerable nations and peoples, and other historically marginalized groups.

It is Black people in America, for instance, who bear some of the highest rates of exposure to polluted air. The carbon economy amplifies and begets racial, social and economic inequities, creating a system that is fundamentally incompatible with a stable future. If we fail to act now, the present moment may merely be a preview of what is to come, as we are forced into ever-more-painful situations and tradeoffs. It is naive, moreover, to imagine that we can simply nudge the fossil fuel industry – an industry that has lied about climate change for decades, actively opposed serious climate solutions and continues to plan for a fossil fuel-dependent future – into good behavior.

This moment creates an opportunity to bring about a better future for ourselves and our children.

Instead, we should recognize that the present moment creates an opportunity to bring about a better future for ourselves and our children. By taking on the carbon economy, we can begin charting a pathway towards economic recovery while building a fairer, more sustainable world in the process.

Governments must actively phase out the fossil fuel industry. Bailouts and subsidies to big oil, gas and coal companies only further delay the essential energy transition, distorting markets while locking us into a future we cannot afford. Instead, a coordinated phaseout of exploration for and extraction of carbon resources allows governments to redeploy funds towards green technology, infrastructure, social programs and good jobs, spurring an economic transition that benefits people and the planet.

Institutions of financial power must end their fossil fuel investments and funding. When our largest banks, most influential investors and most prestigious universities place bets on the success of the fossil fuel industry, they provide it with the economic and social capital necessary to maintain the dangerous status quo. Instead, these institutions should divest from fossil fuel companies and end financing of their continued operations while reinvesting those resources in a just and stable future.

People must build political power to advocate for a fairer economic system. If we attempt an economic rebuilding whose guiding principle is a return to “business as usual” we will simply substitute one crisis for another. Instead, we must recognize that when crises strike, the disaster amplifies along society’s fault lines, and that when we don’t prepare for disasters, the costs of inaction fall most heavily on the most vulnerable. A green recovery can and must uplift those who need it most, at home and around the world, creating a more resilient and regenerative society in the process.

By achieving a large-scale economic transformation that dismantles the carbon economy and brings about a greener world, we have an opportunity to begin the process of economic recovery while working to undo the injustices at the heart of our modern system. As the undersigned experts in economics, we call on our policymakers to recognize the role that meaningful climate action has to play in rebuilding our world – to recognize that a healthy economy and society require a healthy planet.

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mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Aug 31, 2016
Frostbite Falls, MN

How the world’s largest garbage dump evolved into a green oasis

by Robert Sullivan | New York Times | 14 Aug 2020

The radical fix for a noxious landfill in Staten Island: Bury the trash, plant some grass and do nothing for 20 years.

A little less than two decades ago, the last steaming load of garbage arrived at Fresh Kills Landfill. A packed-high barge turned slowly out of the Arthur Kill — that long, dishwater-brown tidal strait that separates Staten Island from New Jersey — and then docked at the Sanitation Department’s pier, an event celebrated less as a matter of ecological stewardship at the time than a triumph of not-in-my-backyard politics.

I remember the last barge because I happened to be there. It was March 22, 2001, and I was embedded with the Department of Sanitation’s film crew, greeting the barge from the rain-soaked deck of what is known to the Sanitation Department navy as a trash skimmer, a little boat that snags flotsam, like a mechanized sea gull. The barge had set off that morning from a transfer station in College Point, Queens, heading south into the East River. Fireboats saluted the trash with water cannons, and as it passed Gracie Mansion, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani saluted it from his front lawn.

About an hour later, Mr. Giuliani was at Fresh Kills himself, standing amid garbage hills 200 feet tall, alongside Staten Island’s borough president, Guy Molinari, and Gov. George Pataki. These three Republicans had worked together to close the dump that Mr. Molinari’s father first protested when it opened in 1948, a time when Fresh Kills was a saltwater marsh where kids swam. After 1948, it became an ecological nightmare and a political hot potato. A banner behind the politicians read, “A Promise Made, a Promise Kept.”

“No more garbage for the people of Staten Island,” said Governor Pataki.

Today, Fresh Kills has been rebranded as Freshkills, and the park that is now at the site of the old dump is poised to accept visitors: the North Park will open in spring 2021, the rest by 2036.

Freshkills is possibly the least likely poster child for urban ecological restoration in the world, and it is radical not just for the way it works — by encouraging flora and fauna do as they please — but for its sheer size. It is almost unbelievable that New York City would set aside a parcel of land as big as Lower Manhattan south of 23rd Street — and just let it go to seed.

But as the park nears opening, it’s important to remember the political archaeology of the place. At conception, it was not the cutting-edge expression of sustainability that it is seen as today. The voters of Staten Island, reliably conservative, rallied around Michael R. Bloomberg, who, down in the polls in his first term, promised to trade their dump for a park.

Not that you can blame them for preferring a park to what was in its heyday one of the world’s great eyesores. Imagine Central Park with trash mounds 20 stories high. Now imagine that times three. Imagine a not-delicious mix of household waste excreting noxious methane and millions of gallons of ammonium-rich leachate, the technical term for the juice that flows from trash hills into the waterways. By the late 1970s, an estimated 28,000 tons of trash arrived at Fresh Kills every day.

As conceived by James Corner Field Operations, the landscape architects responsible for the High Line, the idea was not just to build a park but to reimagine the idea of park. If Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park was the work of a static, pastoral painter, then Mr. Corner and his team were less artists than restoration biologists, jump-starting a framework and leaving the ecology of the site itself to finish things up.

“You start with nothing, and you grow,” Mr. Corner told me at the time. “You take a very sterile or inert foundation and move something in. It’s like lichen. They quickly grow and die, grow and die, creating a rich soil that something else can grow onto. And that’s how ecosystems grow.”

The core problem would be adapting the site to the trash — no less than 150 million tons of garbage had been dumped at Fresh Kills (roughly the equivalent of the amount of plastic currently floating in the ocean). The trash would be capped with plastic, then slowly covered with millions of tons of clean soils, the soils planted with native grasses. The four garbage mountains would be transformed into four soft green hills straddling the convergence of creeks. Tree planting (started by arborists, accelerated by seed-carrying birds) would occur in coordination with the careful engineering of what you might call the dump’s natural excretions, the methane and the leachate.

In this way, over the course of 20 years, the parks and sanitation departments worked together with Field Operations to restore or encourage tidal wetlands, to generate forests, scrublands, and the wide-open fields of grasses. The Sanitation Department refines the methane and pipes it to Staten Island homes for cooking and heat, which makes a cup of tea in a warm room on a cold day in the Arden Heights neighborhood a little miracle of noxious composting.

I have visited the site on various occasions since that last garbage barge — most recently last summer, in a rowboat, when I paddled through Fresh Kills Reach and out into the Arthur Kill, winding up just up the shore from Freshkills. Over the years, I have often stopped outside the park’s boundaries to study the great mounds, visible along the West Shore Expressway, or from the edge-of-the-kills neighborhood that 30 years ago was a hellscape: hordes of vermin and putrid smells that I heard a resident once describe as akin to having your head in a garbage can.

Today, there are four giant trash hills, though you see just the hills, no trash. The South Mound was capped in 1996, the North Mound the next year. Shortly after that last barge arrived in 2001, the park’s design contest, sponsored by the Municipal Arts Society, was complicated when debris from the World Trade Center disaster wound up in Fresh Kills, now buried in the West Mound.

In 2007, capping of the East Mound began, and in 2011 a regular old park appeared, or reappeared, on the northwest edge of Freshkills. The renovated Schmul Park — a relatively small old-school park, with playgrounds, baseball fields and basketball and handball courts — was a tentative step, designed to keep nearby neighborhoods interested.

A few kayaks were permitted in the waterways in 2011. Goats were brought in for their ecological restoration abilities in 2012. (They eat phragmites, a common reed that tends to take over.) An art gallery popped up in 2018.

All along, park officials occasionally escorted groups of birders through the closed-off park-in-progress, as well as artists and school groups. Even in a group, a visitor feels like an interloper in a quiet, faraway green space, dotted with glimpses of infrastructure: plastic sheeting, methane extraction pipes, concrete troughs to channel rainwater. Truckloads of imported soil enter the site, much of it from the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, an iron-rich coastal soil that stains the roads on the Staten Island mounds red.

Back in 2015, I was teaching a science seminar at CUNY’s Macaulay College when I visited Freshkills along with hundreds of sophomores, all of us part of a bioblitz, an invasion of citizen scientists who in this case documented Freshkills’ growing list of flora and fauna: bats skittering past the methane recovery stations, herons wading in the murky trash-bottomed tidal streams. My first trip in 2001 was marked by sightings of mostly gulls; that weekend, our group reported 314 species in North Park’s 233 acres. Our bioblitz team was said to be the first to spot a blackjack oak tree on Staten Island, formerly a resident exclusively of the south, now showing up in New York as New York warms.

That’s what’s most wonderful about Freshkills; it’s a place to witness change, a giant viewing station for ecological adaptation. You’ve seen all the photos of big cities in the weeks after Covid-19 locked the world down — visibly cleaner air, flocks of birds, herds of animals in the streets — tagged with the ironic social media meme, “Nature is healing.” Fresh Kills is a pre-Covid healing place, where game cams spot the red fox at play on the edges of the rising woodlands or in the wildlife crossings that are codesigned by humans and the wildlife doing the crossing.

Acres of wide-open grasslands are rare anywhere in the U.S. — and unimaginable in a city overrun by development. Meanwhile, newly planted grasses in Freshkills have attracted a steady population of birds, including the largest colony of grasshopper sparrows in New York State.

As an ongoing experiment in a megacity’s quest for a healthy future, Freshkills asks the kinds of questions we hadn’t thought to ask: Why does the grasshopper sparrow prefer the East Mound’s grasslands to those of the North Mound? Is it the more advanced drainage system in the more recently capped East Mound that makes for a drier soil? Is it the slight difference in ambient noise, which includes the sound of methane mitigation that always reminds me of the 1975 Joni Mitchell LP, “The Hissing of Summer Lawns”?

The next creatures park planners are hoping to attract are humans, who have been locked out since these 2,200 acres of the island’s west shore were first locked down for trash. When 20 acres of trails and fields opens next spring, it will be a monumental event. Since the founding of the Freshkills Park Alliance, the nonprofit that manages the park and funds it, Freshkills publicity has tended to highlight the idea of transformation, indicating that the best is yet to come.

This is understandable, given the difficulty of keeping a park-hungry public waiting two decades and now, thanks to pandemic-related budget cuts, waiting more. “Though some still associate ‘fresh kills’ with the former landfill,” went a Freshkills Park Alliance blog post this past January, “many have begun to recognize its significance as a symbol of renewal, rebirth, and rejuvenation.”

Rejuvenation is not restricted to the decay and new growth of plant matter. The post highlighted CrossFit Fresh Kills, a new gym down the road; a high-end Brooklyn furniture store called Fresh Kills; and Fresh Kills IPA, a beer brewed by Staten Island’s Flagship Brewing Company.

For me, the park is less a transformation than a palimpsest, a place with so many layers that when you start to go back through them, things get confused, or misplaced, or worse. The Native history has been erased, of course; the 1670 deed that Dutch land purchasers used to end Munsee claims on the island is complicated, to put it mildly. (At the New-York Historical Society, you can see where the Dutch forced Munsee children to sign.)

There were no parks as we think of them today in 1843, when Henry David Thoreau lived on Staten Island, but in his spare time he walked the south shore, climbed the hills, and might have, I’m guessing, boated in the area of Fresh Kills, in the wide open streams. Thoreau would have understood the tidal creeks and salt marshes to be the lifeblood of the giant Hudson-Raritan estuary, which includes the lower Passaic and Hackensack watershed referred to as the Meadowlands. These marshes define our region, from an ecological standpoint, despite how hard we continue to transform them into dumps or luxury waterfront developments. What’s astounding is how long they lasted: it was mostly marshes along the Arthur Kill, well into the early 1900s, when, following the example of John D. Rockefeller, oil companies began to set up huge petroleum farms.

The trick, when Freshkills finally opens, is to think of it not just in terms of sustainability. We have to see it too as a reminder of what the city consumes — those mountains are made of our trash. And we have to remember what it means that the hills’ growth stopped.

What Freshkills park initially represented back in 2001 was the Bloomberg administration’s plan to transfer garbage to way stations out of Staten Island and into neighborhoods where people of color lived. From there, New York’s trash was sent out of the city’s boundaries, as it still is today — by train to Ohio, to Virginia, to upstate New York and to several landfills in Pennsylvania among other places. Some of what would have gone to Fresh Kills is today incinerated in Newark, N.J., Niagara Falls and Chester, Pa., on the Philadelphia border, where 70 percent of residents are African-American.

Next year, when I look out from the top of the North Mound, I’ll be thinking about what the all-new grasslands and the restored marshes mean not just for the lucky-at-last Staten Island communities nearby but for the Mid-Atlantic coast. I’ll think of the migrating birds who see Freshkills and all of Staten Island’s parks as a life-sustaining stop on the way through the region, up through the Meadowlands and into Long Island Sound and beyond.

I’ll also think of the new Amazon fulfillment center nearby that’s standing on what could have been restored wetlands, another sad trade-off. A four-mile walk up the shore from Freshkills, the big flat building (neighbor to other multimillion-square-foot warehouses) is adjacent to Old Place Creek Tidal Wetlands Area, just beneath the new Goethals Bridge. Old Place Creek is, incidentally, about as close as you can get to seeing what Fresh Kills looked like before Freshkills Park and before Fresh Kills dump, when Thoreau might have paddled through.

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mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Aug 31, 2016
Frostbite Falls, MN

‘The soil that makes one of the globe’s most important farming regions so productive is vanishing before our eyes.’

Unless we change course, the US agricultural system could collapse

by Tom Philpott | The Guardian | 26 Aug 2020

Our food supply comes from an environmentally unsustainable system that is going to unravel.

Picture an ideal dinner plate with a hearty portion of meat and a helping of vegetables, trucked in from California. The unique landscapes we rely on to deliver this bounty – the twin jewels of the US food system – are locked in a state of slow-motion ecological unraveling.

California’s agricultural sector has flourished from decades of easy access to water in one of the globe’s biggest swaths of Mediterranean climate. The Sierra Nevada, the spine of mountains that runs along California’s eastern flank, captures an annual cache of snow that, when it melts, cascades into a network of government-built dams, canals and aqueducts that deliver irrigation water to farmers in the adjoining Central Valley. In light-snow years, farmers could tap aquifers that had built up over millennia to offset the shortfall.

But the Sierra snowpack has shown an overall declining trend for decades – most dramatically during the great California drought of 2012-2016 – and it will dwindle further over the next several decades as the climate warms, a growing body of research suggests. A 2018 paperby Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers articulates the alarming consensus: a “future of consistent low-to-no snowpack” for the Sierra Nevada, the irrigation jewel of our vegetable patch.

Even as snowmelt gushing from the mountains dwindles, the Central Valley farming behemoth gets ever more ravenous for irrigation water, switching from annual crops that can be fallowed in dry years to almond and pistachio groves, which require huge upfront investments and need to be watered every year. As a result, farm operations are increasingly resorting to tapping the water beneath them. Between 2002 and 2017, a period including two massive droughts, farmers siphoned enough water from the valley’s aquifers to fill Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain three times.

As the water vanishes, the ground settles and sinks in uneven and unpredictable ways, a phenomenon known as subsidence. By 2017, large sections of the Central Valley were sinking by as much as 2ft a year. In addition to damaging roads, bridges, houses, sewage pipes and pretty much all built infrastructure, subsidence snarls up the canals that carry snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada. Thus we have a vicious circle: reduced snowmelt means less water flowing through government-run irrigation channels, which pushes farmers to pump more water from underground, causing more subsidence that damages those channels and reduces their flow capacity, pushing farmers to accelerate the cycle by pumping more water from underground.​
"There’s no great mystery about how to halt the withering away of California’s water or Iowa’s soil."
Seventeen hundred miles to the east, the prevailing agriculture system consumes a different but equally precious resource: soil. When white settlers seized what we now call the corn belt from indigenous inhabitants in the 19th century, they found thousands of miles of prairies and marshlands, with hundreds of species of perennial wild grasses, legumes and flowers that towered over their heads, with roots plunging just as deep into the earth, burying carbon from the atmosphere and feeding a teeming web of micro-organisms that break down and cycle nutrients. Above ground, vast herds of bison ate their way through fields, stimulating new plant growth and recycling nutrients through their manure.

Interactions between Native Americans, plants, animals, microbes and climate left behind a majestic store of fertile topsoil that scientists call mollisol. Even today, the US midwest boasts the largest of four major mollisol stores on the planet. Mollisols develop over millennia yet can be squandered in decades. US colonial-settler agriculture transformed this ecological niche, a land mass 1.5 times the size of California, into a factory churning out just two crops – corn and soybeans.

This kind of agriculture fouls water as a matter of course. Since corn and soybeans are planted in the spring and harvested in the fall, the vast majority of corn-belt farmland lies bare for the winter months, leaving the ground naked when storms hit. These deluges pummel bare topsoil and send it – and the agrochemicals and manure farmers apply to it – cascading off farms and into streams and creeks that flow into rivers, lakes and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. But there’s another problem with subjecting the land to the same two crops every year: loss of the region’s precious black topsoil. According to research by the soil scientist Rick Cruse, Iowa – and much of the surrounding corn belt – is losing soil at a rate 16 times the pace of natural replenishment.

Again, climate change is a driver. Today’s farmers encounter a weather regime radically different from that of their grandparents: more intense off-season storms, and thus ever-heavier pressure on the soil. If global greenhouse gases continue rising, the region faces a 40% increase in precipitation by the late 21st century, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment. The soil that makes one of the globe’s most important growing regions so productive is vanishing before our eyes, degrading a crucial food production region at the very time when climate change and global population growth call for building resilience.

There’s no great mystery about how to halt the withering away of California’s water or Iowa’s soil. California needs to shrink its agricultural footprint to match the scale of its water resources, which means other regions of the US should ramp up their own fruit and vegetable production to make up the difference. In the corn belt, US federal farm policy should stop paying farmers to overproduce corn and soybeans, and instead push them to diversify their plantings and keep their land covered all winter – practices known to maintain high levels of production while also preserving soil, decreasing water pollution and slashing the need for pesticides and fertilizers.

Reduced demand for agrichemicals, however, pinches the bottom line of the agrichemical behemoths, and a turn from corn-and-soybean dominance will dent profits for the meat companies that rely on cheap, overproduced feed. These companies divert a share of their income into lobbying and campaign finance, and their interests shape US farm policy. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Just as creating a sane climate policy requires the rise of a social movement to negate the power of the fossil fuel lobby, a better agricultural regime will require a direct political challenge to big agribusiness.

Climate justice and food justice are, in fact, the same fight – the struggle to beat back corporate dominance and make the world livable for everyone.

Tom Philpott is the agriculture correspondent for Mother Jones and the author of Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It

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mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Aug 31, 2016
Frostbite Falls, MN

Wireless device makes clean fuel from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water

by Sarah Collins | University of Cambridge | 24 Aug 2020

The device, developed by a team from the University of Cambridge, is a significant step toward achieving artificial photosynthesis - a process mimicking the ability of plants to convert sunlight into energy. It is based on an advanced 'photosheet' technology and converts sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and formic acid - a storable fuel that can be either be used directly or be converted into hydrogen.

Researchers have developed a standalone device that converts sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into a carbon-neutral fuel, without requiring any additional components or electricity.

The device, developed by a team from the University of Cambridge, is a significant step toward achieving artificial photosynthesis—a process mimicking the ability of plants to convert sunlight into energy. It is based on an advanced 'photosheet' technology and converts sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and formic acid—a storable fuel that can be either be used directly or be converted into hydrogen.

The results, reported in the journal Nature Energy, represent a new method for the conversion of carbon dioxide into clean fuels. The wireless device could be scaled up and used on energy 'farms' similar to solar farms, producing clean fuel using sunlight and water.

Harvesting solar energy to convert carbon dioxide into fuel is a promising way to reduce carbon emissions and transition away from fossil fuels. However, it is challenging to produce these clean fuels without unwanted by-products.

"It's been difficult to achieve artificial photosynthesis with a high degree of selectivity, so that you're converting as much of the sunlight as possible into the fuel you want, rather than be left with a lot of waste," said first author Dr. Qian Wang from Cambridge's Department of Chemistry.

Dr Qian Wang and her colleagues have developed a standalone device that converts sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into a carbon-neutral fuel, without requiring any additional components or electricity.

"In addition, storage of gaseous fuels and separation of by-products can be complicated—we want to get to the point where we can cleanly produce a liquid fuel that can also be easily stored and transported," said Professor Erwin Reisner, the paper's senior author.

In 2019, researchers from Reisner's group developed a solar reactor based on an 'artificial leaf' design, which also uses sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to produce a fuel, known as syngas. The new technology looks and behaves quite similarly to the artificial leaf but works in a different way and produces formic acid.
While the artificial leaf used components from solar cells, the new device doesn't require these components and relies solely on photocatalysts embedded on a sheet to produce a so-called photocatalyst sheet. The sheets are made up of semiconductor powders, which can be prepared in large quantities easily and cost-effectively.

In addition, this new technology is more robust and produces clean fuel that is easier to store and shows potential for producing fuel products at scale. The test unit is 20 square centimeters in size, but the researchers say that it should be relatively straightforward to scale it up to several square meters. In addition, the formic acid can be accumulated in solution, and be chemically converted into different types of fuel.

"We were surprised how well it worked in terms of its selectivity—it produced almost no by-products," said Wang. "Sometimes things don't work as well as you expected, but this was a rare case where it actually worked better."

The carbon-dioxide converting cobalt-based catalyst is easy to make and relatively stable. While this technology will be easier to scale up than the artificial leaf, the efficiencies still need to be improved before any commercial deployment can be considered. The researchers are experimenting with a range of different catalysts to improve both stability and efficiency.

The current results were obtained in collaboration with the team of Professor Kazunari Domen from the University of Tokyo, a co-author of the study.

The researchers are now working to further optimize the system and improve efficiency. Additionally, they are exploring other catalysts for using on the device to get different solar fuels.

"We hope this technology will pave the way toward sustainable and practical solar fuel production," said Reisner.

More information: Molecularly engineered photocatalyst sheet for scalable solar formate production from carbon dioxide and water, Nature Energy (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41560-020-0678-6 , www.nature.com/articles/s41560-020-0678-6

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Lufa Farms just opened what it says is the world's largest commercial rooftop greenhouse, seen in this aerial photo in Montreal.

World's biggest rooftop greenhouse opens in Montreal

AFP | PHYS.ORG | 26 Aug 2020

Building on a new hanging garden trend, a greenhouse atop a Montreal warehouse growing eggplants and tomatoes to meet demand for locally sourced foods has set a record as the largest in the world.

It's not an obvious choice of location to cultivate organic vegetables—in the heart of Canada's second-largest city—but Lufa Farms on Wednesday inaugurates the facility that spans 160,000 square feet (15,000 square meters), or about the size of three football fields.

"The company's mission is to grow food where people live and in a sustainable way," spokesman Thibault Sorret told AFP, as he showed off its first harvest of giant eggplants.

It is the fourth rooftop greenhouse the company has erected in the city. The first, built in 2011 at a cost of more than Can$2 million (US$1.5 million), broke new ground.

Since then, competitors picked up and ran with the novel idea, including American Gotham Greens, which constructed eight greenhouses on roofs in New York, Chicago and Denver, and French Urban Nature, which is planning one in Paris in 2022.

A local Montreal supermarket has also offered since 2017 an assortment of vegetables grown on its roof, which was "greened" in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.

'Reinventing the food system'

Lebanese-born Mohamed Hage and his wife Lauren Rathmell, an American from neighboring Vermont, founded Lufa Farms in 2009 with the ambition of "reinventing the food system."

Tomatoes are viewed at Lufa Farms, a company that just opened what it says is the world's largest commercial rooftop greenhouse in Montreal.

At Lufa, about 100 varieties of vegetables and herbs are grown year-round in hydroponic containers lined with coconut coir and fed liquid nutrients, including lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, bok choy, celery and sprouts.

Bumblebees pollinate the plants, while wasps and ladybugs keep aphids in check, without the need for pesticides.

Enough vegetables are harvested each week to feed 20,000 families, with baskets tailored for each at a base price of $30.

"The company's "online market" also sells goods produced by local partner farms including bread, pasta, rice, etc," Sorret said.

On the ground floor of the new greenhouse, a huge distribution center brings together nearly 2,000 grocery products for offer to "Lufavores," including restaurants.

Shopper Catherine Bonin tells AFP she loves the freshness of the produce but laments that some items are always out of stock. "I can never get peppers," she says.

Sales doubled during pandemic

"We are now able to feed almost two percent of Montreal with our greenhouses and our partner farms," said Sorret.

Lufa Farms spokesman Thibault Sorret shows off vegetables grown at what it says is the world's largest commercial rooftop greenhouse in Montreal.

"The advantage of being on a roof is that you recover a lot of energy from the bottom of the building, allowing considerable savings in heating, an asset during the harsh Quebec winter," he explains.

"We also put to use spaces that were until now completely unused," he said.

Fully automated, the new greenhouse also has a water system that collects and reuses rainwater, resulting in savings of "up to 90 percent" compared to a traditional farm.

"Lufa more than doubled its sales during the new coronavirus pandemic, a jump attributable to contactless delivery from our online site," says Sorret.

Profitable since 2016, the private company now employs 500 people, around 200 more than before the pandemic, according to him.

"Lufa is currently working on the electrification of its fleet of delivery trucks and is in the process of exporting its model to different cities around the world, starting with Canada and the United States," Sorret said.

"What's a little crazy," he recalls, "is that none of the founders had grown a tomato in their life before opening the business."

Explore further: Scientists harvest 1st vegetables in Antarctic greenhouse

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New Zealand startup eyes global wireless electrical grid

by Peter Grad | Tech Xplore | 21 Aug 2020

A startup energy company in New Zealand believes it can power the world with a wireless electric transmission system that can bring power to hard-to-reach areas and do so at lower cost than with traditional power lines.

The startup, Emrod, has teamed up with a leading power supply company to test power transmission using a series of antennas. The only limiting factor is the antennas must be within line of sight with each other.

The system consists of a power source, a transmitting antenna, multiple relay stations, and a receiving antenna, often referred to as a "rectenna."

Emrod converts electric energy into microwaves, which in turn are transmitted through a cylindrical beam to relay stations. Those stations refocus the beam and guide it along its path to the rectennas, where the microwaves are converted back to electricity.

The concept is not new. In fact, futurist, electrical engineer, and inventor Nikola Tesla envisioned a wireless electric system more than 100 years ago. Transcontinental microwave relay networks opened telephone communications between Europe and America in the 1950s, and recent decades have brought us increasingly efficient wireless network and satellite communication technologies.

What makes Emrod's system notable is its high degree of efficiency and near total absence of energy loss.

"The efficiency of all the components we've developed are pretty good, close to 100 percent," said Emrod founder Greg Kushnir. He said his system uses many of the same elements as the common household microwave oven, which achieves only a 70 percent efficiency. "The development of newer materials for energy transmission in recent years helps to minimize energy loss," he said.

"We're not the first to apply this technology, but we're the first ones to have a commercially viable solution," Kushnir said.

Emrod has tested the system over short distances, up to 130 feet so far. Company officials say there is no reason to believe the system will not work perfectly over hundreds miles. Offshore facilities could transmit power to hard-to-reach destinations. Power could be transmitted easily through mountainous regions or areas that would be too treacherous or too costly to lay traditional wiring through. Wireless power stations could be set up quickly in the aftermath of hurricanes or other natural disasters.
"We can use the exact same technology to transmit 100 times more power over much longer distances," Kushnir said. "Wireless systems using Emrod technology can transmit any amount of power current wired solutions transmit."

Could wildlife, such as birds, get zapped by the microwave beams? Emrod officials say a protective ring of laser beams acting as bodyguards around the microwave transmissions will shut off the beams when objects such as birds, other animals or humans, approach. The momentary outages should not affect overall power transmission. Facilities using sensitive equipment, such as medical devices, would need to have battery backups for the occasional power interruptions where stoppages of even just seconds could be critical.

Besides, the power density is low. "It's not just how much power you deliver, it's how much power you deliver per square meter," Kushnir said. "The levels of density we're using are relatively low. At the moment, it's about the equivalent of standing outside at noon in the sun, about 1 kW per square meter."

He says bad weather or adverse atmospheric conditions will have no impact on transmission. Should there be a failure in transmission, mobile stations attached to trucks could be dispatched relatively quickly.

"We have an abundance of clean hydro, solar, and wind energy available around the world but there are costly challenges that come with delivering that energy using traditional methods," Kushnir said. "I wanted to come up with a solution to move all that clean energy around from where it's abundant to where it's needed, in a cost-effective, eco-friendly way."

"Energy generation and storage methods have progressed tremendously over the last century but energy transmission has remained virtually unchanged for 150 years,"
he said.

The joint project with Powerco will begin in October. The company also has plans to beam power across 19 miles of water from the New Zealand mainland to Stewart Island, at what is expected to be nearly half the cost of a traditional wired system.

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Large Hadron Collider

Large Hadron Collider creates matter from light

by Brookhaven National Laboratory | PHYS.ORG | 3 Sep 2020

The Large Hadron Collider plays with Albert Einstein's famous equation, E = mc2, to transform matter into energy and then back into different forms of matter. But on rare occasions, it can skip the first step and collide pure energy—in the form of electromagnetic waves.

Last year, the ATLAS experiment at the LHC observed two photons, particles of light, ricocheting off one another and producing two new photons. This year, they've taken that research a step further and discovered photons merging and transforming into something even more interesting: W bosons, particles that carry the weak force, which governs nuclear decay.

This research doesn't just illustrate the central concept governing processes inside the LHC: that energy and matter are two sides of the same coin. It also confirms that at high enough energies, forces that seem separate in our everyday lives—electromagnetism and the weak force—are united.

From massless to massive

If you try to replicate this photon-colliding experiment at home by crossing the beams of two laser pointers, you won't be able to create new, massive particles. Instead, you'll see the two beams combine to form an even brighter beam of light.

"If you go back and look at Maxwell's equations for classical electromagnetism, you'll see that two colliding waves sum up to a bigger wave," says Simone Pagan Griso, a researcher at the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "We only see these two phenomena recently observed by ATLAS when we put together Maxwell's equations with special relativity and quantum mechanics in the so-called theory of quantum electrodynamics."

Inside CERN's accelerator complex, protons are accelerated close to the speed of light. Their normally rounded forms squish along the direction of motion as special relativity supersedes the classical laws of motion for processes taking place at the LHC. The two incoming protons see each other as compressed pancakes accompanied by an equally squeezed electromagnetic field (protons are charged, and all charged particles have an electromagnetic field). The energy of the LHC combined with the length contraction boosts the strength of the protons' electromagnetic fields by a factor of 7500.

When two protons graze each other, their squished electromagnetic fields intersect. These fields skip the classical "amplify" etiquette that applies at low energies and instead follow the rules outlined by quantum electrodynamics. Through these new laws, the two fields can merge and become the "E" in E=mc².

"If you read the equation E=mc² from right to left, you'll see that a small amount of mass produces a huge amount of energy because of the c² constant, which is the speed of light squared," says Alessandro Tricoli, a researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory—the US headquarters for the ATLAS experiment, which receives funding from DOE's Office of Science. "But if you look at the formula the other way around, you'll see that you need to start with a huge amount of energy to produce even a tiny amount of mass."

The LHC is one of the few places on Earth that can produce and collide energetic photons, and it's the only place where scientists have seen two energetic photons merging and transforming into massive W bosons.

A unification of forces

The generation of W bosons from high-energy photons exemplifies the discovery that won Sheldon Glashow, Abdus Salam and Steven Weinberg the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics: At high energies, electromagnetism and the weak force are one in the same.

Electricity and magnetism often feel like separate forces. One normally does not worry about getting shocked while handling a refrigerator magnet. And light bulbs, even while lit up with electricity, don't stick to the refrigerator door. So why do electrical stations sport signs warning about their high magnetic fields?

"A magnet is one manifestation of electromagnetism, and electricity is another," Tricoli says. "But it's all electromagnetic waves, and we see this unification in our everyday technologies, such as cell phones that communicate through electromagnetic waves."

At extremely high energies, electromagnetism combines with yet another fundamental force: the weak force. The weak force governs nuclear reactions, including the fusion of hydrogen into helium that powers the sun and the decay of radioactive atoms.

Just as photons carry the electromagnetic force, the W and Z bosons carry the weak force. The reason photons can collide and produce W bosons in the LHC is that at the highest energies, those forces combine to make the electroweak force.

"Both photons and W bosons are force carriers, and they both carry the electroweak force," Griso says. "This phenomenon is really happening because nature is quantum mechanical."

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It's hard to grow vegetables in this mountain town. Then this farmer had an idea

by Jeremy Harlan | CNN | 14 September

It was a no-brainer when it came to finding the best job for Ty Warner.

"Ty is our tomato guy," said Nona Yehia, co-founder and CEO of Vertical Harvest, an innovative three-story greenhouse in downtown Jackson, Wyoming.

As she watched the slender 6'5" Warner carefully weave his way through a towering canopy of plants, pulling ripe tomatoes hanging above, Yehia smiled with pride. "Ty is good at every part of growing tomato plants. It is really impressive."

Operating an indoor farm in the snowy northwest corner of Wyoming wasn't exactly the job Yehia had envisioned for herself years ago. In 2008, after the New York City-based architect moved to Jackson to start a new firm, Yehia wanted to try something innovative in her new community.

"We really wanted to address the local sustainable source of food," she said.

The idea to go up

Jackson sits at an elevation just over 6,000 feet, nestled between Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and the Teton National Forest, and its location means there is very little space and conducive weather for farmers to grow fresh produce for the bustling tourist town.

"We came together to look for an out-of-the-box solution and that's where the idea to go up came from," Yehia said.

"Up" was on a 1/10 of an acre lot abutting an existing parking garage.

In July, Nona Yehia, CEO and co-founder of Vertical Harvest, announced a second vertical farm in Westbrook, Maine. The second Vertical Harvest will be five times larger than the original Wyoming farm and will open in 2022.

In the spring of 2016, Vertical Harvest began growing its first lettuce, microgreens, and tomato plants. The farm's current staff of 40 now grows year-round, and cultivates the amount of produce equivalent to ten acres of traditional outdoor farming.

Yehia says all of the produce grown is distributed to 40 local restaurants and four grocery stores.

"Nona has approached it as bringing something unique to chefs that they then can use and feature all year round," said Ben Westenburg, the executive chef and partner of Persephone West Bank in nearby Wilson, Wyoming. "It's just so easy to call up Vertical Harvest and be like, 'I need some salad greens and tomatoes and some really beautiful micro greens.' And they're like, 'Okay, we'll be there tomorrow.'"

'We're pairing innovation with an underserved population'

Ty Warner, a Vertical Harvest employee, is tasked with picking and pruning hundreds of the indoor farm's tomato plants.

While planning for a new greenhouse, Yehia and her design team realized they had to do more with the project than just grow fresh greens for locals.

"There was a bigger problem," Yehia said. "People with physical and intellectual disabilities in our town who wanted to work, who wanted to find consistent and meaningful work, were not able to do so. We're pairing innovation with an under-served population and really creating a sea change of perception of what this population is able to do."

Half of Vertical Harvest's workers have physical or intellectual disabilities. Yehia, whose older brother is disabled, says every single employee, including Warner -- who is autistic -- is critical to keeping Vertical Harvest functioning.

"We can empower the most under-served in our communities just by giving them a chance and giving them something to be able to give back to," Yehia explained.

"It's hard for people with disabilities to find a job," says Sean Stone, who used to wash dishes at several restaurants in town before joining Vertical Harvest as a farmer. "I'm glad to help the community and grow them fresh produce to have."

Growing beyond Wyoming

In July, Yehia announced Vertical Harvest would be expanding to serve a second community. The new farm located in Westbrook, Maine, will open in 2022 and will be five times larger than the original Wyoming greenhouse.

The goal is to grow a million pounds of produce each year for local restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, and schools.

Mycah Miller, a Vertical Harvest employee, packages lettuce greens to be delivered to one of four grocery stores the vertical farm services in Jackson, Wyoming.

"In moving to Maine and having a much larger space, we're excited to play out the model of providing local produce at an urban scale," she says.

Yehia believes the global pandemic this year has forced consumers and communities around the country to explore new ways to get fresher produce from closer sources.

"Covid has shined a spotlight on what we knew ten years ago when we were looking at this vertical model: We have a centralized food system and it's kept us from getting fresh, local, good-tasting food," Yehia said. "I think Covid-19 has forced people to ask why that is and how they now can get locally-grown food they like in the summertime and get it year-round. It's exactly what Vertical Harvest is about."

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The Living Cocoon fungi coffin made by Dutch startup Loop costs about €1,250.

First funeral held using ‘living coffin’ made of mushroom fibre

by Jon Henley | The Guardian | 15 Sep 2020

Netherlands-based startup company behind eco-friendly fungi mycelium casket.

After months of testing, the first funeral has taken place in the Netherlands using a fast-composting “living coffin” made of mycelium, the mat of fibres that forms the underground part of fungi.

“I didn’t actually go, but I talked to a relative beforehand – it was a moving moment, we discussed the cycle of life,” Bob Hendrikx, the founder of Loop, the startup producing the Living Cocoon, told the Metro newspaper.

“He had lost his mother, but he was happy because thanks to this box, she will return to nature and will soon be living like a tree. It was a hopeful conversation.”

Hendrikx, a 26-year-old biodesigner who studied at the Technical University of Delft, told local media that the Living Cocoon allowed “people to become one with nature again. We can enrich the soil instead of polluting it.”

Mycelium is “nature’s recycler”, Hendrikx said. Not only does it neutralise toxins and provide fresh food to everything growing above ground, but its fibres can be used to make anything from food to clothes and packaging – including coffins.

“Mycelium is constantly looking for waste products – oil, plastic, metals, other pollutants – and converting them into nutrients for the environment,” he said. “This coffin means we actually feed the earth with our bodies. We are nutrients, not waste.”

Hendrikx said the process by which a human body in a traditional coffin becomes compost can often take a decade or more, slowed by the varnished wood and metals of the casket and synthetic clothing, which can take even longer to disintegrate.

"A mycelium coffin will be absorbed back into the soil within a month or six weeks," he said, "actively contributing to the full decomposition of the body it contains and enriching the surrounding soil quality – all within a period of two to three years."

"Loop is working with scientists to measure the impact of human bodies on soil quality, with a view,"
Hendrikx said, to “convincing policymakers to convert polluted areas into healthy forests – with our bodies as nutrients.”

Working in collaboration with two funeral cooperatives in The Hague, the startup has made 10 coffins at a cost of about €1,250. It expects the price to fall significantly as production intensifies and, Hendrikx hopes, mycelium caskets become “a new normal”.

Each Living Cocoon takes several weeks to form as the mycelium mat grows in the shape of a coffin and is then allowed to dry naturally. As soon as it is exposed to damp soil again it comes back to life and begins the decomposition process.

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3 secrets of a prepared pantry

by PreparednessMama.com | 18 Jul 2018

Busy families go in a hundred directions, and it can be a struggle to get healthy, home-cooked meals on the table every day. One late class, a sick child, or unexpected appointment can derail the whole thing, and you’re left with a desperate fast food stop for dinner.

Which is why a prepared pantry is so important

A prepared pantry saves you time and money. Instead of going to the store every day, you can reach into the pantry for quick, home-cooked meals. Without a pantry, you’ll find that purchases of convenience foods or take out will increase.

I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to make dinner meal preparation easier and still stay within our budget. You’ll learn to save time and money as you follow these 3 secrets of a prepared pantry.

Fill the pantry by buying in bulk

The bulk bin section at the grocery store is a great place to start. You’ll find that affordable bulk food it is cheaper to purchase because you are not paying for the extra packaging, store shelf space, and merchandising costs. You are paying for the actual food itself.

This strategy works well for fresh produce too. Buy quantities of your favorite fruits and vegetables while they are in season and less expensive, and then learn the techniques for canning, dehydrating, and freezing food.

By canning, freezing, and drying foods in season, you can ease the financial burden of building a pantry. This allows you to slowly build up a reserve of food without overwhelming your budget

Because you are preparing during the good times when everything is in season, you can accumulate your pantry foods during these sales and harvest times.

This will bring peace of mind, and in the event of an economic crisis, financial hardship, or food shortages you will be that much more prepared to get through the rough patches.

Package food for convenience

Food storage does not have to be huge plastic containers with fancy lids and five years of provisions. Trying to organize that much food at one time will quickly get overwhelming. When you start small with a home pantry and repackage large purchases into smaller portions, you will still reap many rewards.

Here are a few ways to repackage:

Purchase grains in 25-pound bags from a local mill, Costco, or Sam’s Club. Split the each bag into 5 or 6 Ziploc bags and place them in a 5-gallon Remove one bag for your working pantry and keep the remaining bags in long-term storage until they are needed. These will last 1 year without adding oxygen absorbers.

Purchase large #10 cans of rice, beans, nonfat dry milk, or oats from the Provident Living website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You do not have to be a member. These will be shelf stable for 5+ years. Once a can is opened, transfer the contents to a food grade container and make use of it in your pantry during the next year.

Save food grade containers obtained from your grocery purchases. We save glass jars and sturdy plastic containers, wash and repurpose them to store pantry items, spices, and herbs. In this picture, I repurposed a salsa jar and painted the lid, the white container was originally full of protein powder, and the clear jar was full of nuts. These all have a place in my pantry.

Rotate for freshness

Above all, a pantry needs to be rotated for freshness, and the money you save by purchasing in bulk will be wasted if the food is not used in your regular recipes. You will accomplish this by creating meals from your pantry every day.

Then the stock on your home pantry shelf will be used while it is fresh, items will be brought into the pantry from your long-term storage, and those items will be replaced every year with new bulk purchases. It’s a lovely cycle to keep fresh food in your pantry.

Over time you will find that a well-stocked pantry goes in cycles. In the summer, as produce from the garden is being set aside, you’ll add more than you can eat. Then in the winter, the cupboards may seem bare as you eat more than you can store.

Be sure to set up a purchasing plan so that next year during peak season you can start all over again. Then if a natural disaster should strike, there is a severe power outage or your family has an economic downturn, you won’t need to worry about it. You will be that much more prepared if you have a well-stocked pantry

Freedom from worry is the best reason to have food storage in the first place. When you have a prepared pantry, you can store affordable, healthy and convenient meals every day.

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Physicists build circuit that generates clean, limitless power from graphene

by University of Arkansas | PHYS | 2 Oct 2020

A team of University of Arkansas physicists has successfully developed a circuit capable of capturing graphene's thermal motion and converting it into an electrical current.

"An energy-harvesting circuit based on graphene could be incorporated into a chip to provide clean, limitless, low-voltage power for small devices or sensors," said Paul Thibado, professor of physics and lead researcher in the discovery.

The findings, published in the journal Physical Review E, are proof of a theory the physicists developed at the U of A three years ago that freestanding graphene—a single layer of carbon atoms—ripples and buckles in a way that holds promise for energy harvesting.

The idea of harvesting energy from graphene is controversial because it refutes physicist Richard Feynman's well-known assertion that the thermal motion of atoms, known as Brownian motion, cannot do work. Thibado's team found that at room temperature the thermal motion of graphene does in fact induce an alternating current (AC) in a circuit, an achievement thought to be impossible.

In the 1950s, physicist Léon Brillouin published a landmark paper refuting the idea that adding a single diode, a one-way electrical gate, to a circuit is the solution to harvesting energy from Brownian motion. Knowing this, Thibado's group built their circuit with two diodes for converting AC into a direct current (DC). With the diodes in opposition allowing the current to flow both ways, they provide separate paths through the circuit, producing a pulsing DC current that performs work on a load resistor.

Additionally, they discovered that their design increased the amount of power delivered. "We also found that the on-off, switch-like behavior of the diodes actually amplifies the power delivered, rather than reducing it, as previously thought," said Thibado. "The rate of change in resistance provided by the diodes adds an extra factor to the power."

The team used a relatively new field of physics to prove the diodes increased the circuit's power. "In proving this power enhancement, we drew from the emergent field of stochastic thermodynamics and extended the nearly century-old, celebrated theory of Nyquist," said coauthor Pradeep Kumar, associate professor of physics and coauthor.

According to Kumar, the graphene and circuit share a symbiotic relationship. Though the thermal environment is performing work on the load resistor, the graphene and circuit are at the same temperature and heat does not flow between the two.

That's an important distinction, said Thibado, because a temperature difference between the graphene and circuit, in a circuit producing power, would contradict the second law of thermodynamics. "This means that the second law of thermodynamics is not violated, nor is there any need to argue that 'Maxwell's Demon' is separating hot and cold electrons," Thibado said.

The team also discovered that the relatively slow motion of graphene induces current in the circuit at low frequencies, which is important from a technological perspective because electronics function more efficiently at lower frequencies.

"People may think that current flowing in a resistor causes it to heat up, but the Brownian current does not. In fact, if no current was flowing, the resistor would cool down," Thibado explained. "What we did was reroute the current in the circuit and transform it into something useful."

The team's next objective is to determine if the DC current can be stored in a capacitor for later use, a goal that requires miniaturizing the circuit and patterning it on a silicon wafer, or chip. If millions of these tiny circuits could be built on a 1-millimeter by 1-millimeter chip, they could serve as a low-power battery replacement.

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Dr Safaa Kumari’s seeds are resistant to the climate-fueled viruses in Syria.

The Syrian refugee who developed virus-resistant super-seeds

by Nathanaël Chouraqui and Adib Chowdhury | The Guardian | 31 Mar 2020

Plant virologist Dr Safaa Kumari discovered seeds that could safeguard food security in the region – and risked her life to rescue them from Aleppo.

Dr Safaa Kumari’s seeds are resistant to the climate-fuelled viruses that have destroyed crops of pulses in Syria. Photograph: Courtesy of Arab Society for Plant Protection
The call came as she sat in her hotel room. “They gave us 10 minutes to pack up and leave,” Dr Safaa Kumari was told down a crackling phone line. Armed fighters had just seized her house in Aleppo and her family were on the run.

Kumari was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, preparing to present a conference. She immediately began organising a sprint back to Syria. Hidden in her sister’s house was a small but very valuable bundle that she was prepared to risk her life to recover.

Kumari is a plant virologist. Her work focuses on a quiet yet devastating development crisis. Climate-fuelled virus epidemics affecting fava beans, lentils and chickpeas are spreading from Syria to Ethiopia, gradually destroying the livelihoods of low-income populations. Known as “poor man’s meat”, these pulses are vital for both income generation and food security in many parts of the world.

Finding a cure was urgent, Kumari explains. Hopeless farmers were seeing increasing levels of infected crops turning yellow and black. The cause? “Climate change provides aphids with the right temperatures to breed exponentially and spread the epidemics,” she says.

For 10 years, Kumari worked to find a solution. Finally, she discovered a bean variety naturally resistant to one of the viruses: the fava bean necrotic yellow virus (FBNYV). “When I found those resistant seeds, I felt there was something important in them,” says Kumari from her lab in Lebanon where she now works. Only the fighting in Syria had moved. “I had left them at my sister’s in central Aleppo to protect them from the fighting,” she says.

Determined not to let a war get in the way of her work “for the world’s poor,” Kumari felt it her duty to rescue the seeds in Aleppo. “I was thinking: how am I going to get those seeds out of Syria?"

“I had to go through Damascus, and then drive all the way to Aleppo. There was fighting and bombings everywhere.”
After two days’ driving along dangerous roads, seeds in hand, Kumari made it to Lebanon, where she now works as a researcher at Icarda (International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas) in the Bekaa valley, close to the Syrian border. Hassan Machlab, Icarda’s country manager says: “Many of the Syrian scientists we welcomed here have suffered. It is tough.”

But bringing the seeds to safety was only the beginning. Kumari needed to turn them into a sustainable solution.

As crop production collapsed in the region, producers started to rely heavily on insecticides. “Most farmers go to the field and spray it without safety material – masks and appropriate jacket,” she says. “Some are dying, others are getting sick or developing pregnancy issues.”

At first, the sample failed. “So we crossed them with another variety that had a better yield and obtained something that is both resistant and productive,” says Kumari. “When we release it, it will be environment-friendly and provide farmers with a good yield, more cheaply and without insecticide.”

Seed samples in the laboratory.

Kumari now plans to distribute her super-seeds free to farmers. She has already turned down an offer from a large company for the virus detection technology.

“They wanted to buy our product and then sell it to the farmers, but we refused,” says Kumari. “Ours is free. It’s our responsibility to provide our solutions to people everywhere,” she says.

But, as for many Syrian refugees, the war is never far from her thoughts, “Something she won’t tell you is that it wasn’t easy for her,” says Machlab. “She was working on all this and she didn’t have a clear mind, as her family were in Aleppo and her house was destroyed.”

Kumari adds: “Last week I saw my family in Turkey. I have five sisters and three brothers, scattered in Germany, Turkey, Syria. The last time we met was in Aleppo in 2012. When I came back someone told me ‘Safaa, you’re looking great today!’ Of course, I had just spent time with my family again!” she says, laughing.

But she adds: “It’s not easy for me, it’s not easy for a woman to work on agriculture (research). It’s not easy, but it’s OK.

“When I’m working, I’m not thinking I am a Syrian or a woman though. But I do feel I sometimes receive funding [from westerners] because I’m a woman,”
she says. “Perhaps!”

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mr peabody

Moderator: PM
Staff member
Aug 31, 2016
Frostbite Falls, MN

Sugar, spice and all things nice ... a selection of homemade preserves and pickles.

The power of pickles: a guide to preserving almost everything – from jam-making to chutneys

by Dale Berning Sawa | The Guardian | 28 Apr 2020

You don’t need a glut of garden apples or courgettes to create mouth-watering preserves that will last you through the months ahead.

More than any domestic appliance, preserving is the home cook’s secret weapon. If you have a vegetable garden, fruit trees or an allotment, it is the age-old way of making the summer glut and autumn harvest last through the winter dearth when there is nothing to grow or pick. Even with year-round fresh produce in the shops, a gleaming row of gem-hued jars filled to the brim with crunch and spice can brighten up the most lacklustre meal.

The idea of making your own kimchi or bottling a batch of chutney might scare you off. But all you need is a few key ingredients and some patience. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

What to preserve

Knowing what is in season wherever you are in the world is key. In the UK now, you will find the last of last year’s apples and pears, but cauliflower and cabbage are going strong and a soft-fruit glut is just around the corner. Come springtime in the US, meanwhile, Serious Eats’ Preserved column suggests rhubarb-strawberry jam and tomato jam, among others.

It sounds obvious, but be sure to go for something you like the taste of, and in quantities you can reasonably get through. I say this from experience: there is no point in filling a two-litre Kilner jar with pickled, skin-on kiwis if you are the only one who is going to eat them. Use small jars. Use flavours you enjoy. The point is not to waste anything.

Spotless ... sterilising Kilner jars in the oven.

As Toni Kostian of Grön restaurant in Helsinki puts it: “Preserving is about having only the right kind of bacteria in your produce and getting rid of any harmful ones.” Pickles, jams and ferments can be safely done at home with basic cooking equipment.

Be sure to clean hands, surfaces, utensils and produce thoroughly. Wash all jars, bottles and lids in warm soapy water, and rinse thoroughly. They need to be hot, dry and sterile when you fill them. So, for preserves you intend to use up quickly, place your jars (without any rubber seals) in a 140C (120C fan)/285F/gas mark 1 oven for 20 minutes, timing it so that they are ready when your product is. And top whatever you are storing with a circle of wax paper before sealing.

For anything you intend to keep a long time in a store cupboard, use proper canning jars (which close with lids and rings) and, ideally, the boiling water-bath processing technique. This is more than any novice needs to attempt on their first go – but if you want to learn how, check out Marisa McClellan’s tutorials on foodinjars.com.

How to stay safe

As Toni Kostian of Grön restaurant in Helsinki puts it: “Preserving is about having only the right kind of bacteria in your produce and getting rid of any harmful ones.” Pickles, jams and ferments can be safely done at home with basic cooking equipment.

Be sure to clean hands, surfaces, utensils and produce thoroughly. Wash all jars, bottles and lids in warm soapy water, and rinse thoroughly. They need to be hot, dry and sterile when you fill them. So, for preserves you intend to use up quickly, place your jars (without any rubber seals) in a 140C (120C fan)/285F/gas mark 1 oven for 20 minutes, timing it so that they are ready when your product is. And top whatever you are storing with a circle of wax paper before sealing.

For anything you intend to keep a long time in a store cupboard, use proper canning jars (which close with lids and rings) and, ideally, the boiling water-bath processing technique. This is more than any novice needs to attempt on their first go – but if you want to learn how, check out Marisa McClellan’s tutorials on foodinjars.com.

Into the briny ... ingredients for dill pickle.


Quick – or refrigerator – pickles are what the food writer Rachel Roddy calls entry-level pleasers. She uses a simple pickling brine: 550ml white wine vinegar, 200ml water and a heaped tablespoon each of fine salt and sugar (plus the aromatic of your choosing: chilli, garlic, bay, dill …) for 1kg of chopped-up garden fare (carrot, turnip, red cabbage, beetroot, fennel, red onion). Bring the brine to a boil, add the veg for one minute, then divide among the jars (into which you have spooned one tablespoon of olive oil), cover with the liquid and spices and seal. The pickles can be eaten within 24 hours, and will last for two months in the fridge.

Rice wine vinegar makes gentler quickies, although the lower acidity means they have a shorter lifespan. You can go very sweet (Kylee Newton’s Japanese brine adds 380g of sugar to 450ml rice wine vinegar and 450ml water, with only ¼ teaspoon of sea salt and a few peppercorns) or not sweet at all (Anna Thomson infuses her brine – 350ml rice or white wine vinegar, 800ml water, 4½ teaspoon salt – with lemongrass, garlic, fresh ginger and red chillies.)

Another great thing to have in the fridge is mixed spiced pickles – half salad, half condiment – such as Malaysian penang acar. The veg here requires a bit more preparation. Huangkitchen.com’s Angie Liew says to mix 200g each of chopped-up cabbage, carrots, green beans and pineapple with 500g cucumber (skinned, soft centre removed, and sliced) with 1 tbsp salt, and leave it for 30 minutes. Squeeze out the liquid then blanch in boiling water and vinegar, before draining and leaving to dry out for an hour. Meanwhile, grind together a mix of 10 fresh and 5 dried chillies (soaked in water until soft), 10 shallots, 5 garlic cloves, 2cm each of turmeric and galangal root (I would substitute these last two with a 4cm piece of ginger if I couldn’t find any), 20g each of coriander seeds and shrimp paste, and a few candlenuts (or use macadamia nuts or cashews instead). Fry this spice paste in oil until fragrant, then stir in 200ml vinegar, 180g sugar and 1 tsp salt, followed by 100g ground peanuts, the vegetables and lastly 100g toasted sesame seeds, mixing well after each addition. Store for at least 24 hours before serving, and up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

There are the more pungent varieties that take time to mature. Some version of cucumber pickle is found in most countries, but everything from green beans to new peas work too. For Iranian torshi bademjan, aubergine is first parboiled in equal parts vinegar and water, then squeezed, sliced down the middle and stuffed with garlic cloves, dried mint and a little salt. Pack tightly into a jar small enough that the pickling liquid (125ml fresh cider vinegar to 1 tbsp boiled and cooled water) covers the veg. Seal and store them in a cool dark place for at least a month and keep in the fridge once opened.

Fruit, too, loves to be pickled. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall bottles cherries – stones, stalks and all – in a hot syrup (200ml water, 300ml white-wine or cider vinegar, 250g caster sugar, 6 black peppercorns, 3 bay leaves, 2 juniper berries, and 2 cloves) and leaves for a month before using. Nigel Slater uses a similar syrup for stone fruit, but cautions that since no amount of vinegar will soften hard fruit, it’s best that peaches be first stoned and parboiled, then skinned; with apricots, he leaves the skin on. Conversely, these pickles are ready within three days. Which is to say: follow recipes carefully. Don’t skip any steps and stick to all specified timings.

Alive and kicking ... fermenting cauliflower and vegetables.


For Kostian, lactic fermentation not only comes with reputed (though unproved) health benefits but flavour-wise is the most interesting place to start. He recommends gooseberries, though any other fruit will do. For quick ferments, your jars don’t need to be sterilised, but they do need to be squeaky clean. And you need to use good filtered water (no chlorine) and good sea salt (no caking agents).

Mix 1kg of fresh berries with 30g of salt in a large lidded glass jar, and lay clingfilm over the top of the produce, pressing it down with a small weight. Then put the lid on, loosely. Leave at room temperature (18-22C) for 15 to 30 days. Taste after 15 days, and decide if you want to take the funky flavour further.

Yeast or moulds can grow on the surface if whatever you’re fermenting comes into contact with the air, or if your kitchen is too hot. Trust your senses. If anything smells off-putting, start again. If not, remove the top layer and carry on. The food writer Regula Ysewijn recently found two jars of sourdough starter – essentially, fermented dough – in a box in her cellar, where they’d sat, forgotten, since she moved house two years ago. One smelled rank, and she binned it. The other smelled sweet, like traditional dark rye bread, so she fed it till it bubbled and is now baking with it.
Variations on sauerkraut use celeriac, apple and carrot, as well as cabbage – and are ready within seven to 15 days
For something quicker, try the two-day carrot and cabbage ferment from Danish artist Olafur Eliasson’s studio kitchen in Berlin: mix 2 grated carrots and a small shredded cabbage with 1 tbsp salt and place in a large glass jar with a lid. Leave in the fridge for a couple of days, or longer, for a stronger flavour.

Of course, the more time you have to make your preserves the better. For a proper sauerkraut, massage 1 tbsp salt into 1kg shredded cabbage until it releases its juices then pack tightly into a jar, pressing down until the liquid rises above the surface (add a little filtered water if needed). Seal and leave at room temperature for at least four days, until bubbles appear. The chef Tom Hunt says that at this point, you can continue fermenting at room temperature for months or even years. Putting it in the fridge will slow down the process, and temper the flavour. Online you’ll find recipes for kraut variations using celeriac, apple, and grated root veg.

Kimchi is another wildly adaptable cabbage-based ferment. Koreanbapsang.com’s Hyosun Ro has over 20 different recipes, from easy to vegan to trad. Food52, meanwhile, has an excellent how-to for making any kind of kimchi without a recipe. It is a world unto its own, so do read up.

Olia Hercules makes fizzy tomatoes by placing 500g medium-sized fruit in a large sterilised preserving jar and covering with a cooled brine (1 litre water, 7 tsp salt, 5 tsp sugar), along with some allspice berries, black peppercorns, 2 heads of dill, 1 bay leaf and 4 chopped up celery sticks. She leaves the sealed jar in a warm place in her kitchen (25C) for one week, then transfers it to the refrigerator or a cellar, where it can be kept unopened for months.

Lastly, for something quite thrillingly slow, make Clare Lattin’s lime pickle. Mix the wedges of 2-3 limes (250g) with 1 tbsp salt and 1 tsp sugar. Pack into a sterilised lidded jar and leave to ferment for four weeks (put a note in your diary). When ready, heat 4 tbsp mustard oil in a pan, and fry the spices (1 tbsp turmeric, 3 tsp cayenne, 3 tsp mustard seeds and 1 tsp fenugreek seeds) until the seeds start to pop. Add the limes with all their juice, along with 1 tbsp cider vinegar, and cook for five minutes. Leave to cool, then pack back into the jar and store for another week, so the flavours can combine. No citrus has ever been this rewarding.


Newton likes how you can use anything a bit overripe in a chutney (just remove brown or bruised bits). Her apple and ale medley is a good place to start. Put 900g diced onions, 600ml cider vinegar and 400g granulated sugar in a large, wide-rimmed pot and bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes, until reduced by one third. Mix in 1.5kg apples (peeled, cored and diced) and the zest of 2 lemons. Fill a little muslin bag with 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise, 1 tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp peppercorns and 1 bay leaf, tie with a string, and add to the pot. Bring to the boil and simmer, stirring occasionally (cover the surface with a pierced round of parchment paper) for 20 minutes. When thickened, stir through 2 tsp salt and 300ml ale and simmer for five more minutes. Fill warmed sterilised jars to 5mm from the rim, seal, label, date and store in the cupboard for up to 12 months. Once open, keep in the fridge for up to three months.

Getting stuck in .. homemade raspberry jam with chia seeds.


Sweet preserves range from creamy curds (lemon, but also blackberry, raspberry, gooseberry, orange and blueberry) to jellies and whole fruit recipes. You name the fruit, sugar will do wonders with it. The Irish chef and founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School Darina Allen points to raspberry jam as a good starting point. To win over panicked students, she sometimes makes some scones, then gets to work on the jam. “By the time the scones are out of the oven,” she writes, “the jam is made. It’s that easy!”

Mash 900g fresh or frozen berries in a wide, stainless-steel saucepan and cook for three to four minutes over a medium heat until the juice begins to run. Add 900g warmed sugar and stir over a gentle heat until dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook for about five to six minutes, stirring frequently. Test for set by putting about a teaspoonful on a cold plate and leaving it for a few minutes in the fridge. If it wrinkles when you press it, it is set. Remove from the heat immediately. Skim, pour into sterilised jam jars and cover immediately.

Infusions and aromatics will embellish the basic idea, from Nigel Slater’s plum with almonds and rosewater to Lillie O’Brien’s fig and earl grey tea. And roasting your fruit – as Anna Jones does plums – will enhance its built-in sweetness. Some fruit – grapes, say – are sweet enough to need no added sugar. Of course, the sugar being the preservative, the less you use, the shorter the lifespan of your product.

Chia seeds, meanwhile, make a cheat’s instant jam, which lasts about two weeks. Simply stew some fruit, then mix in a sweetener, some lemon juice and the chia seeds, and leave for five to 10 minutes to thicken.

Finally …

As the Guardian writer Phil Daoust put it, if all of this sounds like hard work, make yourself a drink. “A few handfuls of raspberries or blackberries will transform the cheapest vodka,” but the same goes for oranges and rum or sloes and gin. Place 500g fruit in a large jar, and cover with 250g sugar and a litre of alcohol. Seal, shake (continue shaking every day until the sugar is dissolved) and place in a dark cupboard for three months. Strain out the fruit, then bottle and store for at least a year. The longer the better.

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